Image of two plants in pots.

Can plants really purify the air in your home?

Last Updated: March 11, 2022

We’ve all heard that houseplants help purify the air in your home. But is it true? Follow along as we dig deep to clear the air on houseplants once and for all.

Houseplants are experiencing a surge in popularity — and for good reason. They’re easy on the eyes, easier to care for than a pet or a child, and some are even edible.

Perhaps their most touted virtue is that they help purify the air in your home. But is it true? Follow along as we dig deep to clear the air on houseplants once and for all.

First, what causes poor indoor air quality?

We spend about 90 percent of our time inside, so the quality of our air is pretty important.

Indoor air pollution is caused by fumes released from various sources inside the home, like cigarette smoke, pesticides, cleaning products, house paint, and even our furniture.

Not all of these pollutants are strong enough to smell — VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are emitted from things like drywall, shampoo, and the plywood your new coffee table is made from.

Do plants clean the air in your home?

Illustration of air with bacteria

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but houseplants don’t actually clean the air in your home.

Most of the info that links houseplants to cleaner air comes from a 1989 NASA study. The study showed that houseplants were able to cut down air pollution from VOCs in small, airtight containers in a laboratory setting — a very different environment from the large rooms of a home filled with furniture, knickknacks, and drafty windows.

A recent study from air quality experts at Drexel University says that while plants can remove some air pollutants from indoor spaces like houses and office buildings, they do it at such a slow rate — and it would take so many of them — that the effects are negligible.

So, how many plants do you need to purify a room?

You’d need 10 plants per square foot in your home to enjoy any impact on indoor air quality.

Let’s break that down: For a 320 square-foot room, you’d need 3,200 plants for that room alone. Who needs space for a television when you can watch your philodendron grow?

And with the average American home coming out to around 2,300 square feet, that’s 23,330 air purifying plants required to have a measurable effect on air quality. On the bright side, your local florist is going to love you.

What plants are good for the home?

Just because houseplants aren’t great at purifying the air in small numbers, that doesn’t mean they’re worthless. Quite the opposite — the human brain loves plants.

Having plants in your home or office can reduce stress, improve concentration, and help reduce depression and anxiety.

Need plants? Try these on for size.

Make your home happier with an indoor garden kit

Grow kits simplify making things grow in your home. They offer all of the benefits of houseplants, and if you need more convincing — you get to eat them, too!

There are a ton of different garden kits available (these are our favorites!), from mushrooms and green onions to basil and organic lettuce, and you can grow them anywhere you’ve got space — even in a small New York City apartment.

Got dirt? We do! Check out our gardening store, where we’ve got everything you need to get your grow kit, plant babies, and garden up and running.

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Illustration of chamomile flower.

The best air cleaning plants from NASA’s ‘89 study

If you’re planning to improve air quality by way of an indoor forest — or if you’re just curious — here are the good air cleaning plants from NASA’s study.

  • English ivy
  • Peace lily
  • Bamboo palm
  • Parlour palm
  • Lady palm
  • Snake plant
  • Red-edged dracaena
  • Cornstalk dracaena
  • Florist’s chrysanthemum
  • Janet Craig
  • Warneckei
Illustration of a dandelion

The easiest houseplants to care for

For those who aren’t green thumbs but still want the warm fuzzies from caring for indoor plants, check out this list of the easiest houseplants to care for:

  • Cast iron plant
  • Peace lily
  • Pothos
  • Snake plant
  • Philodendron
  • English ivy
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Shamrock plant
  • ZZ plant

Other ways to keep the air in your home clean

Bummed that your succulent collection isn’t cleaning the air like you thought? Don’t despair!

There are other ways to keep your air quality from going off the deep end, like limiting the use of products that emit VOCs and cleaning your house regularly.

Read on for more easy tips for clean air.

Illustration of a breath of air.

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